Ice Skating: Frenchwoman throws down the gauntlet to her world championship challengers

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The Independent Online
SURYA BONALY, the European champion, seen going into a camel spin, stole a psychological advantage for the women's event at the world figure skating championships by winning the first qualifying group in Prague yesterday.

Nancy Kerrigan, the United States champion, was second in the first of two 23- strong groups to decide the 24 skaters who will advance to Friday's main event. Twelve skaters from each group will qualify.

Kerrigan was third in the Olympics and second in the world championships last year, with Bonaly respectively fifth and 11th. Now the French skater has a new coach, while Kerrigan seems to have lost some confidence. Bonaly outscored the American comprehensively on technical merit.

Bonaly was virtually flawless with six triple jumps in her four-minute routine. Kerrigan fell on her opening triple lutz and over-rotated a triple toe-loop, though she did a successful triple lutz later in her programme.

Chen Lu, the 16-year-old Chinese holder of the world championship bronze medal, won the second qualifying group, with Oksana Baiul, the Ukrainian who has turned 15 since finishing second in her first European Championship two months ago, second.

Chen, who now trains mainly in California, completed a powerful programme of six triple jumps and was rewarded with slightly better marks than those recorded by Bonaly in the first group.

(Photograph omitted)